GIVEAWAY: a gratitude list

I'm going to Italy today! I was going to line up a few posts for while I'm away, but I decided to host a little giveaway instead to win one of these One Line A Day journals. Scroll down for details on how to enter.

I've been keeping my One Line A Day journal for a couple of years now. I don't always manage to fill it in every day, but it's nice to look back on the things that made me smile on that day last year and even the year before that. 

Spring always has me feeling super positive, so I thought I would create a Gratitude List for my blog to keep that positivity going. If you'd like to take part, leave a comment with something that is making you happy right now; it could be something big like moving house or something small - perfectly ripe avocado, anyone? - or it could be something you're looking forward to, like a holiday, graduation, etc. The obvious theme is that it has to be positive! 

On Friday 24th April (my birthday!) I'll choose one person at random to win their own One Line A Day memory book. If you want to increase your chances of winning, follow me on Twitter (@catherinesprunt) or Bloglovin' for extra entries and make sure you let me know in the comments so I can count you in. I'll pick the winner at random next week. Good luck!

I'll start: right now I'm grateful for living in Europe, so we can hop on a plane at lunchtime and be on the Italian coast in time for dinner. 

ESTABLISHING A HEALTHY FOOD PHILOSOPHY




Not just eating healthily, but eating well is always at the forefront of my mind. Whether it's the way I look or the way I feel, most of it can be attributed to what I am or aren't eating and it has to be said, I feel much better when I'm being 'healthy'. But eating healthily means so many different things to different people - gluten-free and plant-based seem to be buzzwords for 2015, and I'm glad that a healthy approach to food and what's on trend don't have to be mutually exclusive, but that doesn't mean that the Dukan diet, juice fasts and so on aren't still on the menu.  

I think I already have a pretty healthy attitude to food - I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables and healthy fats, I cook mostly from scratch and don't rely heavily on processed foods, and I'm pretty good at not snacking between meals or succumbing to cravings and food binges. That being said, since going off the pill I'm still lethargic and really low on energy, my skin has been a bit temperamental and I've put on a little bit of extra squidge around the middle. I actually lost nearly 2 stone a few years ago, using a calorie counter, and while I found it a really useful method to really understand portion sizes, I find I can easily become obsessed with it; a habit I don't want to develop any further.

I decided to sit down with a couple of recent cookbooks to discover their attitude to what we should and shouldn't be eating, what they have in common, and how they differ, to see if I can come up with a healthy food philosophy that's easy (enough) to stick to and makes me feel good. Grab a cuppa, it's going to be a long one!


Philosophy: A plant-based diet, free from gluten, dairy, meat, sugar, processed foods, chemicals and additives.
What I like: Ella appreciates that the way she eats is restricted by her illness, and that if you want to supplement the recipes in the book with organic meat and dairy, then that is completely fine. It's easy to eat salads when the weather's cold, but there are some really hearty recipes in the book that are perfect for when you just want a bowl of carbs and cheese. I've already tried the lentil bolognese and it was amazing.
How to eat like Ella: Prepare in advance and cook big batches of quinoa or brown rice at the weekend that you can add to roasted vegetables for an easy packed lunch or quick week-night supper. 
Recipes to try: Gnocchi with pea pesto, homemade hummus, sweet potato brownies


Philosophy: Whole, unprocessed foods. Embrace healthy fats, dairy, organic meat and fermented foods; cut out gluten and sugar. 
What I like: Everything! I feel like I already think about food in the same was as the Hemsley sisters. I'm a big fan of cooking with butter, and not trimming all the fat off meat, as it tastes good and keeps you fuller for longer. They also recommend eating full-fat dairy - low-fat alternatives are usually loaded with sugar and they don't recommend soy as it is heavily processed and usually genetically modified. Unless you have a dairy or lactose allergy, there's no need to swap milk for soy milk. 
How to eat like the Hemsleys: split your plate into thirds - fill two thirds with low-starch vegetables, leafy greens, seeds, dairy and fats and fill the other third with either pulses and starchy vegetables or protein (I usually take a meat or carbs approach to meals too). Don't see fat as a bad thing - it is more satisfying and, if you are cutting out unprocessed foods, then you are unlikely to be eating any trans-fats. Introduce fermented foods - like miso or sauerkraut - to balance good gut bacteria and drink bone broth (essentially stock), which is rich in collagen to repair and soothe the stomach's lining and aid digestion. 
Recipes to try: Pablo's chicken (pictured), whole roasted cauliflower, Sri Lankan lamb curry, green goddess dressing.


Philosophy: Whether it comes from fruit or from cake, sugar is sugar. Sarah was eating around 25 teaspoons of sugar on a conservative day - from honey, three pieces of fruit, dried fruit and dark chocolate, not even taking into account hidden sources of sugar like sliced bread - which was making her feel tired and lethargic and aggravating an auto-immune disease that she had developed. Quitting sugar takes time, but her approach follows an eight-week plan to ease into.
What I like: Wilson has the same ideas as the Hemsleys - good quality meat and dairy are integral to her recipes - and the plan is easy to follow, with instructional tables and lots of ideas for substitutions.  
How to eat like Sarah: Give yourself realistic goals, but also be strict. Cut back gradually, but have lots of variation to keep things exciting. The book is mostly sweet recipes - which I don't find as appealing because I don't have much of a sweet tooth - but it's perfect for if you are really struggling with cutting down on sugar as there are plenty of tasty things to make. 
Recipes to try: courgette breakfast cheesecake, coconut curry meatballs, rooibos chai

I'm pleased to see that most of my food ideals align with Hemsley + Hemsley, and it's more a matter of willpower for me. The main thing that I've taken away from reading all of those books is that I should be eating less sugar, so I'm going to embark on Sarah Wilson's 8-week plan after I get back from Italy and my birthday (it only makes sense!). I don't have a sweet tooth, but I do find that I want to eat something sweet in the afternoon when I'm at work (never at the weekend) or after dinner, which is definitely more of a habit than a craving. 

I'm really looking forward to trying some of the recipes in the book and finding a healthier food philosophy that works in the long term. I'll definitely get back into my Cookbook Challenge and share some of the recipes I cook on here. Do you have any favourite food blogs you think I'd like? No cakes, obviously!

CINQUE TERRE/LUCCA TIPS


Darren and I are off to Italy next week! We'll be spending 3 nights in Vernazza in the Cinque Terre and 2 nights in Lucca (that picture is actually the view from our Airbnb window!). I'm excited to eat my body weight in pasta and gelato, drink lots of cheap prosecco (I hope!), see some beautiful sites and hopefully practice my Italian.

Have you ever been to either place? Weather permitting, we'll be doing some hiking through the villages in Cinque Terre, cycling around the old walls of Lucca and stopping off to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa on our way home, but I'd ove to know if you have tips - especially restaurant recommendations!

LEMON CAKE w/ rose water cream and jellied blackberries (pt. 2)


In this post, I'm sharing my recipe for rose water cream and jellied elderflower blackberries, which go perfectly with the lemon drizzle cake recipe I posted on Monday.

Cake, cream and jelly are one of life's best combinations (basically trifle, sans custards) and this makes a really lovely, properly British pud that will definitely impress people with a bit of extra technique. It's deceptively easy to pull together and everything can be made in advance, so it's perfect for Sunday lunch or an afternoon tea party.


For the rose water cream:
300ml whipping cream
A few drops of rose water

Rose water is a lovely fresh flavour, but be careful not to overdo it as it can verge on Granny's linen cupboard territory if you go too far. For the cream, simply add a few drops of rose water and whisk until thick and fluffy. It's best to go slowly with the rose water - you can always add more but you won't be able to subdue the flavour unless you have some extra cream to dilute it. You can fold in some crushed blackberries for a little bit of colour if you like, but they might alter the texture a little bit as the juice is quite acidic.


For the jellied elderflower blackberries:
75ml elderflower cordial mixed with 325ml of water
1 sachet of gelatine

The sachet of gelatine that I used is intended to set 570ml of liquid, but to make the jellies stand on their own, you want to use less liquid for a more sturdy consistency.

Pour a few tablespoons of boiling water into a glass bowl and add the gelatine to the bowl (always add the gelatine second, never pour boiling water straight onto it). Gently stir until the gelatine dissolves. If the gelatine clumps, which it often does, place the bowl on top of a saucepan of simmering water, add some of the elderflower liquid and stir until the lumps disappear, but never allow the mixture to boil. Then add the warm, gelatine-infused liquid to the rest of your elderflower mixture.

If you want to create little individual jellies like I have, fill an ice cube tray about half full and place in the fridge to chill. After about half an hour, test the jelly with your finger and if it has set, or at least started to set, you can press a blackberry into it and then top up with more elderflower. You can also use this jelly in a mould (or just keep it in the bowl you made it in) and it will set in the fridge in a few hours. To turn out the jellies, put half an inch of warm water in a baking tray and then place the ice cube tray in the pan for a few minutes so that the jelly softens slightly. Then using the the end of a teaspoon, gently push out the jellies and they should pop out in shape. Don't worry if some break, I actually preferred some of the ones that had a bit of blackberry poking through. And voila! Don't you think these would be delicious with gin as grownup 'jello shots'?

LEMON CAKE w/ rose water cream and jellied blackberries (pt. 1)



Last week I did something that truly terrified me: I replied to a tweet about a new TV cooking show and I ended up being invited for an interview! I found out on the Tuesday evening and I had to visit the company's offices and bring a dish with me on the Friday, so it was a rather quick turnaround.

I'm pretty confident in my cooking - and this blog is helping me to be more adventurous and perfect my recipes along the way - but my mind went totally blank when they asked me to bring something to taste. The problem was that the emphasis was to be on presentation, as people could be bringing their dishes from quite far away and obviously even the most delicious food falls a little flat when it's been sitting in tupperware for a few hours. Presentation is not my strength, but with a little thought I came up with something I think looks pretty decent...and delicious!

I know how to make lemon drizzle cake with my eyes closed, so I decided to start simple and add a few extras and I came up with rose water cream and blackberries set in elderflower jelly. Chefs make plating up look so easy, but making a dish look 'fancy' is actually really hard. There are so many plating methods and plate shapes to choose from - you can see a couple of my attempts below.


To make the lemon cake:
3 eggs (150g)
150g self-raising flour
150g softened butter
150g caster sugar

To make the lemon drizzle:
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
50 - 100g caster sugar

The formula for a simple sponge goes: equal quantities of eggs, flour, butter and sugar. Three medium eggs should weight about 150g, but if they weigh more or less, adjust your other ingredients to match; for example, if your eggs weigh 170g, then use 170g each of self-raising flour, butter and sugar.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Mix together the butter and sugar until smooth, then beat the eggs and add to the mixing bowl along with the flour and the grated zest of one lemon. Beat together until you have a creamy batter (you can use an electric whisk, but by hand works just fine too...and you get a bit of a workout along the way!). Be careful not to over beat, though, or you'll knock out all the air and be left with a dense sponge. If you have a couple of lumps, they are likely to be butter and should melt when cooked anyway.

To make these little individual cakes, I used empty baked bean tins (I saw the idea here ages ago) that I thoroughly cleaned and removed the paper from the outside. You have to cut the rim off the top as there is a little lip on the inside rim. To be honest, I wouldn't recommend using tin cans for baking as they are difficult to grease and are a bit of a hazard - I cut my hand quite badly trying to grease them. To grease the tins, I cut a circle of greaseproof parchment paper to sit in the base of the tin and then buttered the inside of the tin. Then, I cut a long, thin strip of greaseproof paper which I put in the tin, leaving the ends sticking out, so that I would have something to pull the cake out of the tin with.

Fill the tins about halfway full and then bake in the oven for 10 - 20 minutes or until a skewer poked through the centre comes out clean. If you are using a loaf tin (which is what I would normally use), the cake will need around 30 - 35 minutes.


While the cake is still in the tin, mix together the juice of two lemons with the caster sugar. It really depends how sweet you want the cake; if you are serving it with something like ice cream, you might want the syrup to be a bit more tart. Poke holes in the top of the cake with a skewer,  making sure to go all the way through to the bottom, and pour over the syrup. Depending on how much sugar you've used you might get a bit of a crunchy top, but don't worry if you don't...it's still delicious!

This post is already huge, so I've decided to post the recipes for the rose water cream and jellied elderflower blackberries on Wednesday. I'm really excited to share the second part because I think it's a really special (and seriously easy) finishing touch!

STYLING THE SEASONS APRIL: spring refresh


Before the Easter weekend started I posted about doing a big spring clean, and while that didn't quite happen (comatose chocolate eating sort of got in the way), I did manage to reorganise my bedside table. It's much more relaxing to have everything less cluttered and more streamlined, so I'm hoping to keep it this way...at least for the rest of the month.



My bedside table often reflects my mood - this month you can see the stack of healthy eating books that I'll be discussing later in the month, a new perfume I've been trying out, my favourite print by Jeremy Miranda and the mini gift boxes I have no idea what to do with. Indieberries' Live Simply poster also has pride of place and my favourite Diptyque candle is my go-to when I need to give a room a good airing.



Thanks as ever to Apartment Apothecary and Lotts and Lots for the ongoing inspiration. This month, #stylingtheseasons is sponsored by at{mine}, a new interiors inspiration website. I haven't quite figured out how to use it yet...but you can follow me here and see how I get on!

SPRING CLEANING WITH PURPOSE


I came across a similar picture to this on Pinterest and was intrigued. I did a little digging and came up with Jess Lively's 100 Things challenge. I'm a collector and a hoarder by nature, but to combat this tendency I like to do a big clear out a few times a year because a) I don't need/want/use nearly half of the things I squirrel away and b) mess and clutter drive me crazy! It's not just about throwing things away, but making thoughtful changes so that everything in our home is either functional, looks good or means something to us.

In the spirit of spring cleaning, here are the areas I plan to strip and streamline to get rid of 100 things.

Bedroom - I like my bedroom to feel clear and calm, but that's not always the case. When I wrote a post about creating a boutique look on a budget, I celebrated the basket as a catch-call for clutter. While they've helped me keep our bedroom look a little bit neater, they have just become stuffed with things I don't need. In the bedroom, I will: Throw away any beauty products I haven't used in the last month, including sample size testers and old make-up; Stop hoarding magazines and make a dedicated space for the ones I want to keep; Donate any clothes that don't fit me - or my taste - anymore and make an effort to replace them with good quality, timeless pieces. 

Bathroom - our bathroom is pretty small, which helps me keep on top of things we don't need or use. In the bathroom, I will: Stop forgetting to throw away empty loo roll tubes (!!); Use up soaps, shampoos and body lotions before buying new ones; Get rid of the red hand towels I hardly ever wash because I don't have any other reds to put them in the wash with.

Kitchen - we renovated our kitchen a year ago now and it's holding up pretty well, but it's definitely a lot more cluttered than I intended, which looks terrible with our open shelving! In the kitchen, I will: Give away appliances we don't use regularly that take up precious cupboard space; Throw away anything out of date and put grains, rice, pasta into jars; Put up a new shelf for extra glasses and get rid of the ugly mugs I seem to hang onto; Replace sponges, dish cloths, etc. 

Hallway storage - we are lucky to have a big hallway cupboard which I reorganised a year ago, but it still seems to be full of junk! In the cupboard I will: Dump the old tins of paint that are definitely unusable by now; Replace empty rolls of sellotape and stock up on new wrapping paper; Get rid of the shoes I put in there 'just in case' I still wanted to wear them...and haven't in over a year!

Living room - I think most things in this room are functional, and this is the only room where most of the stuff probably belongs to my boyfriend - he's surprisingly good at not accumulating 'stuff'. In the living room I will: Sort out 'the drawer' - you know the one, everyone has one, where you dump letters, bills and all sorts of other things; Put all the DVDs back in their correct cases and weed out the ones we don't watch to give to the charity shop; find a use for/get rid of the mass of cables we seem to have accumulated.

After all of that, I'm pretty confident there'll be more than 100 things to throw away! I'll let you know how I get on and let me know in the comments if you're going to join in for a big spring clean too. Good luck!
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